Sweden’s welfare society is often heartless to the elderly

Sweden has a well developed welfare state and longevity is high. But, I sometimes feel, those of the elderly who do not have private means, can expect to be hidden away from the general view and encouraged to fade away.

Age discrimination is endemic. The country has a youth fixation and this leads to a deep-seated and widespread discrimination against the elderly. Generally, once a person is labelled a “pensioner” at 65, the journey to being a non-person begins. Only those with private means have some chance of escaping the solitude and invisibility forced upon them. The elderly are grossly under-represented in parliament. The population over 65 is about 26% but the number of members of parliament over 65 is just 2.6%.  Instead of utilising the wealth of experience and knowledge available, parliament has more than its fair share of incompetent youngsters. (This is in spite of the critical faculties of the brain not being fully developed till about the age of 25). It is more expensive for employers to hire seniors even under this red/green government, for who “self-employment” is a dirty word. The prejudices against the elderly show up even in the health and welfare services. The services for the elderly have become dominated by the cost to fulfil the law and are not really concerned with any other measure of quality. Elderly people are often subject to a form of unconscious triage and receive inferior health care. The laws are ostensibly very friendly to the elderly but are administered often by very indifferent (if not unfriendly) people. It is generally assumed that the law – which should be a minimum requirement- is actually a sufficient assurance of quality. The “friendliness” of the laws and the assumed quality they “assure” is used to assuage the conscience of society as the elderly are hidden away in homes and encouraged to fade away with as little fuss as possible.

Every so often a case gets attention which demonstrates the impersonal and “heartless” nature of the welfare services for the old who do not have private means.

ExpressenSiv and Nils Sundén, 72 and 86, have lived together for over 40 years. But now Stockholm City is forcing them to stay in different homes for the elderly – even though it is against the law. “We do not have many years left so it is important to be together”, says Nils Sundén. 

A couple who have long lived together have the right to continue living together, even if they have different care needs. This law, of the right to cohabitation, has been in force since November 1, 2012. However few make use of it. …..

“We’ve been married for over thirty years. When we first moved from our villa, we came to a retirement home in Blackeberg. I lived in a group home and Siv got an apartment in the same house”, says Nils Sundén.
But the nursing home had shortcomings and the married couple were forced to move to two different homes for the elderly in early 2013. In May, the couple asked about getting to stay together, but this was rejected by the Assistance Unit within the City of Stockholm, which decided  on the matter. Siv and Nils Sundén were denied the opportunity to live together and the official wrote, 
“Joint living is not deemed to be appropriate in the nursing and care homes with dementia orientation unless both spouses have need of such accommodation.” …..

Dick Lindberg is an investigator at the National Social Services Board. He has been commissioned by the government to guide municipalities on how to apply the new law on cohabitation. He has followed the work of the law and written inquiries on the issue since 2012. He was very surprised that Nils and Siv Sundén had been refused the chance to stay together. “It sounds a bit strange. The whole point (of the law) is that it applies to spouses with different care needs. Even if one of the pair is completely healthy they should be able to stay together anyway. Moreover, there is no exception for people with dementia”, said Dick Lindberg.

The couple were first denied the chance to stay together because he lived in a dementia home. Which he does not. Then they were denied on the grounds of the health needs of one of them, which is not valid as a reason for denying that the couple live together. …..

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One Response to “Sweden’s welfare society is often heartless to the elderly”

  1. ulfewb Says:

    I totaly agree with your findings. It’s not only in parliament you will find young persons in position of running, apropriate funding and deciding in matters of retirement homes etc. On communal level this is often the case, and many of them have not visited the facilities they are working with. Also they are not old enough to have parents living in these homes and have hard time identifiing themselves with their decisions about shower once a week even during hot summer months, serving food that they never would serve or eat at home, not understanding that hard food does not go well with old teeth, etc. The staff at the care facilities are hard working devoted people, but they do not get the support they need from the communes.
    How I know? Mom was in same facility 2008 – 2011 as mother -in -law moved into 2011 and is still there, and I visit 2-4 times a week.
    Staff are great, management changed person in charge 3 times in 4 years and at community level 4 times in 4 years. Now the last now working person in charge at the facility seems to do a great job, not sweeping the dirt under the rug when cleaning, like her two predecessors did.


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